This was a slow news week, so here are random thoughts and observations.
Last week I criticized lawmakers’ political pandering on new science standards, but this week, I saw a more positive side of lawmakers.
At a meeting of the House select committee looking into allegations of sexual harassment against a former lawmaker, the three Democrats — and especially the two Republicans — sounded like they are more interested in facts and reform than in political advantage.
Republicans Robert Benvenuti and Julie Raque Adams lost two votes on party lines. Adams suggested Benvenuti — a former inspector general in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — chair the panel and she and Benvenuti suggested action by the committee require a super-majority vote of four.
They lost both votes 3-2 as Democrats chose Jeff Donahue to chair and voted to act by simple majority. But the general attitude was non-partisan.
Given the subject and the potential for Republicans to exploit the issue in next year’s elections, that bodes well for the committee.
We suffered through another week of back-and-forth between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes trying to outdo the other in their loyalty to coal. Both blamed the policies of Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency.
No doubt stricter emissions standards make it hard for the industry to plan and expand. But has anyone noticed that the companies announcing layoffs of miners are shutting down existing operating mines, suggesting they can’t sell all the coal they’ve already mined?
Kentucky’s congressional Republicans are outraged over Obama’s “war on coal” and its impact on eastern Kentucky. But all five Republican House members voted to cut the SNAP or food stamp program by $40 billion, a program on which eastern Kentucky is more dependent than most of the country.
Apparently we’re headed for a government shutdown in Washington. A small number of tea party House Republicans prefer to shut the government down rather than allow the Affordable Care Act to take effect. But they’re enough to threaten Speaker John Boehner’s hold on his job, so he and the House leadership apparently will go along.
If “Obamacare” is such a disaster and so reviled, why do Republicans say “this is our last best chance” to kill it? Don’t they hope to win control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016? Then why threaten seniors’ social security, the pay of our soldiers, or the feeble economic recovery now?
Could it be they fear that once the law takes effect a lot of people may like it and some of the scary descriptions of death panels, government “takeover” of health care and soaring costs might prove inaccurate?
The same Republicans also threaten to hold an increase in the debt limit hostage. Polls show the public opposes raising the debt limit. But if you ask them if the United States should pay its bills, they’ll say, absolutely. The public reasonably wants spending controlled and Democrats need to compromise. But does the public really want to renege on our existing bills?
Isn’t it time someone in Washington (Democrat or Republican) explain what’s at stake if we default?
That it will actually increase the deficit, likely increase mortgage rates for many of those who are against raising the debt limit; and that most reputable economists think it might wreck our economy.
Aren’t Republicans supposed to be the party of fiscal and moral responsibility, the same people telling us SNAP reductions are necessary to cut off cheats and scofflaws?
Maybe it’s asking too much for straight talk or consistency from politicians of either party these days.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was a slow news week, so here are random thoughts and observations.
Compromise is not that simple
It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.
Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency
Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.
The case of the ghostly neighbor
Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.
Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously
Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.
50 years makes a world of difference
I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.
Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter
This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.
Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer
Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.
Making plans for spring planting
My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place.
Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort
Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.
Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery
Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.
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